The Google Craze

Google LogoNowadays it’s almost impossible to get through a day without hearing the word Google. Their products range from maps, to programs, to social networks, to operating systems and even their self-driving car seems not so far from the market.

As someone constantly looking for workflow optimizing strategies I’ve adopted many of google’s solutions into my daily routine so here is a list of my favorite Google products and how I use them.

Google Reader


The RSS icon

It took a long time for me to figure out what RSS was, because as many times as I saw it’s little orange icon, no-one had specifically mentioned its power to me.  Phase one curiosity led to clicking on these icons, which just brings you to a mumbo-jumbo code, but when I finally read up on it and realized its a really cool way of pulling news from almost any internet source, the only thing you need is an RSS reader.  Although I’m sure there are plenty out there, I knew that Google had something called Reader and I figured I’d test it out.

Google's RSS Reader

Here is a preview of my Reader screen, organized into my subfolders on the left.

So basically all you do is right-click on any “RSS” icon you see on the internet (any reputable business or organization that does web updates or news will have it near the top or bottom of the page) – hit the right-click menu’s “Copy Link Address” or “Copy Link Location”, then click over to your and click on the big orange subscribe button – paste your clipboard’s RSS Feed URL into the box, click Add and now your new subscription will be listed on the left in the Subscriptions area.  Add half a dozen of your favorite things to check out on the internet, organize them into folders and suddenly you realize your getting caught up very quickly each morning, on only the stuff you’re interested in with your own personal digital newspaper! I love it.

Google Docs

Google docs is basically identical to Microsoft Office except it’s “cloud-based”, completely free, and you and your four uncles can all type in one document at the same time, with cool little colored cursor position indicators that show you who, is where exactly, in the document.  There are several scenarios where I find this unbelievably convenient to have available.

Example 1 – I bounce around about 4 different computers a day, between three in my office, and 1 at my other work.  With google docs I’m able to make notes on a particular project, and quickly pull those simple notes up on any machine anytime I’m on the web on any computer.

Example 2 – I am working with a few other people on a particular project, and we need to share ideas, notes, login info / URL’s etc.   We can highlight or color our text with various meanings to show who is saying what, what is the status of a note, whether its new or not, etc.   And without any uploading or anything I can email someone a link to a googledoc and we can build up our concepts there together without losing notes in email threads etc or a hard-copy file being attached and downloaded then resent with updates etc.

Example 3 – The Spreadsheets are awesome because they have automatic “Form” builders that allow you to quickly create a code chunk that you can use to add a new row of data based on your table headers into your spreadsheet.   I create database lists of customers, email accounts, etc and I use them all the time.

Google Maps and Google Earth

No-one spends any time debating how awesome this stuff is.   My favorite examples of using this is when I’m “scouting” an area, if I change apartments or plan to visit someplace for any amount of time that might leave me a chance to explore, I’ll probably have a pretty good idea if there are any interesting wooded areas, bodies of water, or places that might have fun trails to check out from surfing the screen in Google Maps or earth.

I don’t pay any subscription fees to any GPS service, and I don’t have a special expensive GPS device.  I have a BlackBerry Bold with a less than 2″ square screen, and when I’m trying to get anywhere I’m loading up the Google Maps app, and it shows me where I am, it keeps North at the top of the screen (which makes way more sense to me than when the top of the screen is whatever I happen to be pointed at), and it follows me so I can see the road ahead, zooming in and out at my leisure.   I might search directions to the nearest Qdoba, and it creates a solid blue line, and although no-one tells me when to turn where, I just watch where I am, and I can see fairly easily where my turn is by watching myself follow the roads.  It’s the “stay on the blue line” game, and its fun.   I’ll sometimes pop on the “traffic” layer on the ride home, and avoid the congestion and accidents.   Works like a charm.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar Content displays with PHP

Google Calendar Content displays with PHP

I like google calendar because they make it very simple to have multiple calendars which I can toggle on and off easily.  Its a really awesome way for me keep my personal schedule, my work schedule, and other schedules clean and neat.   You can also “API” these calendars into a beautiful listed version with no google wrapping if you’re feeling ambitious.

Google Voice

All my business cards have my google voice number.  And although I’ve occasionally had some weird issues with it, I’m still finding it incredibly advantageous.   It will call my phone 9am to 8pm, but only if I’m not at my other job.  If I don’t pick up after 4 rings it will call my office line where my associates can have a chance to pick it up.  If they’re not available my google voicemail will answer, which has a message specific to my business (which is not the same as my personal voicemail when calling my phone directly), and when they finish leaving the message – get ready for this – I get a text message on my phone (and an email) of a transcription of what the person said.  So I can quickly glance down at my phone if i’m in a meeting, and get the nature of the call, the importance etc.   The transcriptions are about 65% to 75% accurate, but you wouldn’t believe how easy it is to “get the message” from these things.   Amazing, and still free?   Google, I don’t know what to say!

Google Voice

Google Voice

So that’s just a few of my favorite Google solutions – what’s Google done that helps you?

2 thoughts on “The Google Craze

  1. Tan on said

    Great write up Brian. Thanks.

    Also, don’t discount the most popular Google product : Gmail

    * Reliable, cloud based that you can access from any computer or smart phone; having a Gmail address free you from marrying your Internet provider in case you need to witch service.
    * Huge email storage for free.
    * Gmail supports Pop3, IMAP in case you want to use your own email software.

    Cons: can’t think of any.

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